Quality Assurance at the Affiliated Institutions of Higher Education of the National University of Bangladesh

Quality assurance in the National University of Bangladesh
Quality assurance in the National University of Bangladesh
Gazi Mahbubul Alam
Written by Gazi Mahbubul Alam

Abstract: Research for this paper, the first of its kind in Bangladesh, has been carried out on quality assurance by  questionnaire, interview and observation  in  the  affiliates  of  the National University  of Bangladesh  (NUB), where  90  percent  of  the  students  in  higher education are from a less privileged background. It has been noted that, in the affiliates, quality of education is perceived as less  important, and  findings show  that policy makers and  legislators  ignore  this area. Without ensuring a quality education for  this  large  portion  of  Bangladesh  students,  national  development  will  remain  slow. Quality  assurance  in  the  affiliated institutions of the NUB should be of major concern. This paper aims to provide information that policy makers may consider in order to develop the quality of education within the NUB affiliates, and to carry out further research in order to address the problems highlighted herein.


In  the  past  few  years,  the  issue  of  Quality Assurance  in Higher Education has emerged. Quality  assurance  in  education  is  of  concern throughout  the  world,  but  its  implementation and maintenance  is  more  problematic  in developing  nations.  With  the  phenomenal growth  of higher  education  institutes  in  the developing  nations  at  the  start  of  the  21st century,  concerns  that  are  centred  on  quality control, quality assurance, quality assessment and,  above  all,  Total  Quality  Management (TQM)  have  become  so  pertinent  that  the concept  of  higher  education  and  quality assurance  are  bound more  tightly  than  ever. Modern  society  needs  higher  education  for both  extending  knowledge  and  for  societal development, but not at the cost of quality, the absence of which  is counter-productive. Ever-increasing  numbers  of  students  in  higher education  provoke  reflection  on  the  quality that may be achieved  in  the higher education institutes  of  any  country,  developing  or otherwise. Bangladesh  is  a  developing  nation  that experiences  a  number  of  constraints  (i.e. financial, political, cultural and governmental). These  constraints  act  in  a  number  of  ways that  result  in  hindering  the  development  of quality  control  in  education  “[1]”.

All  types  of higher  learning  institute  such  as  universities (conventional,  open),  colleges,  and  institutes experience  uncountable  limitations  which prevent them from functioning effectively “[1]”, “[2]”.  However,  in  recognition  of  the  marked differences  between  affiliated  institutes  and colleges  that  impart  higher  education,  and other public and private  teaching universities, the affiliates deserve a special mention. This paper  aims  to  discuss  the  issue  of  quality assurance  in  the  affiliated  colleges  and institutes  of  the  NUB  (National  University  of Bangladesh),  a  government-financed ‘affiliating university1’.


2.1  Definition of Quality Assurance

Before  exploring  the  distinctive  features  and status  of  the  NUB  affiliates,  a  definition  of quality  assurance  and  its  relevance  to education would  help. In  order  sustain  such an argument  I need  to  refer  to  the definitions used by agencies such as QAA and HSV, as well as defining what I understand by quality. The  new  Oxford  dictionary  defines  quality as  excellence  or  a  degree  of  excellence.  In this  context, quality  can be  thought  of as  the ‘best  of  its  kind’,  a  standard  against  which similar things may be measured. The problem with the dictionary definition is that one has to go  on  and  debate  what  is  meant  by excellence.  In  the  area  of  higher  education, here are  those – Boyle and Bowden  “[3]”  for instance  –  who  believe  that  debate  on  the term  itself  is  a  waste  of  time.  “Most progressive  thinkers,”  they  say,  “and  those motivated  by  positive  practical  outcomes, have  moved  on  from  the  endless  esoteric debates on conceptions of quality.” Acknowledging  that  attempting  to  define quality  can  drive  you  mad  “[4]”  it  remains important  to  try.   Boyle and Bowden’s view  is that  we  should  simply  accept  ‘fitness  for purpose’ “[5]” as the most workable definition.

But  this  definition  has  its  own  problems because  it  ignores  multiple  or  competing purposes.  Even  if  the  debate  about  quality cannot be resolved, it is essential to engage in it. Not to do so is to give the field to those who have the power to enforce their purpose. Quality  as  ‘excellence  or  goodness’  was the  definition  preferred  by  philosophers. ‘Fitness  for  purpose’,  is  the  definition preferred by business people. It is in the world of business  that both  the definition  ‘fitness  for purpose’ and the quality assurance movement had  its  origins.  The  definition  works  well  in business because  the stated aim of business is  straightforward  –  that  of  making  a  profit.  The  steadier  and  more  long-term  the  profit making  is,  the  better. 

Quality  is  therefore assured  when  the  processes  of  production, sales and distribution fit the stated aims of the company  –  the  largest  possible  long-term profit. Harvey and Green “[6]” also states that, “total  quality  control  implies  total  involvement by  everyone  in  the  organisation  to  provide customers with  reliable products and services that fulfil their needs.” In  determining  quality  assurance procedures,  much  emphasis  is  placed  on criteria  or  attributes  that  maximise  profit.  Elements  such  as  speed,  economy  and efficiency  tend  to  take  precedence.  Another way  to  describe  this  concept  of  quality  is ‘value  for  money’  “[7]”. 

However,  ‘fitness  for purpose’  has  now  gained  such  universal acceptance  that  it  is  applied  today  in  more complicated  contexts  than  just  profit-making businesses –  in  the universities,  for example. Quality  assurance  agencies  in  Britain,  Hong Kong,  the  Netherlands,  Scandinavia  and Australia  make  use  of  it.  But  ‘fitness  for purpose’ begs an  important question – whose purpose?  In  industry  the answer  is easy:  that of  the shareholders or owners. But who owns the universities?  And what is that purpose? Harvey and Green  “[6]”, observed  that  the purpose of quality control is to make a product ‘error  free’.   

So  if  a  product  is  tangible (whether  it  be a  soap  or a  computer),  it  is  in the  best  interests  of  the  manufacturer  or industry  supplier  to  ensure  the  result  is  error free,  thus protecting  future profits.  In order  to do  so,  the  management  of  the  factory  or industry  utilise  good  quality  raw  materials, modern  tools, machinery and  technology. But it  is skilled and efficient manpower  that plays the  most  important  role  in  making  sure  the result  is error  free.  If  the product on offer  is a service2 (i.e.  banking  or  insurance),  the organisation  still  needs  to  use  modern techniques,  technology,  and  communication processes,  adopted  by  skilled  manpower resources,  in order  to ensure  the  same need for freedom from errors. Moving  to  the context of  the education, an education  provided  by  a  school  can  be defined  as  a  ‘product’;  the  school  as  an industry  (the  manufacturer).

The school authorities3 are  profoundly  engaged  in ensuring  freedom  from  errors  within  the education provided. The course curricula can be defined as raw materials, while the schools use  up-to-date  teaching  and  evaluation techniques,  modern  teaching  materials (multimedia  projectors,  audio-video  graphics) and  have  well-stocked  libraries,  laboratories and  support  services  in  order  to  ensure  the education provided is error free.4 The teaching and support staff are  the manpower, and  they are  principally  responsible  to  ensure  the education provided is free of errors. In  respect of education, Green and Harvey “[6]” defined quality assurance as:

“Those mechanisms and procedures designed  to  assure  the  various ‘stakeholders’  in  higher  education that institutions accord a high priority to  implementing  polices  designed  to maintain  and  enhance  institutional effectiveness.” The  International  Network  of  Quality Assurance Agencies in Higher Education is of the view that:

“…quality assurance may  relate  to a programme, an institution or a whole higher  education  system.  In  each case quality  is all of  those attitudes, objects,  actions  and  procedures which,  through  their  existence  and use, and together with quality control activities,  ensure  that  appropriate academic  standards  are  assured extends  to making  the  process  and standards  known  to  the  educational community and public at large “[8]”.”

Within the context of education delivered by affiliates,  the  ‘organisation’  is  the  affiliated institutions  that  work  under  the  guidance  of the  mother  university5.    The  ‘customers’  are the  students,  the  ‘products’  are  the  courses and  the  ‘services’  are  the  student  support services “[9]”. Quality  in  education  may  be  defined  as improving  the efficiency of  the element  in  the input  and  output  processes,  and  preventing the  occurrence  of  problems  by  providing services  that  satisfy  the  learners  by meeting their  explicit  and  implicit  expectations  “[7]”. Quality  in  education  is  inextricably  linked  to teaching  and  materials,  delivery  and promotion of the learning process, people and clientele,  the  learner  support  system  and administration,  and  the  provision  of  a systematic environment conducive to effective learning transactions for purposeful outcomes, monitoring and evaluation “[10]”.

In  education,  quality  assurance  is  a complex  issue.  Education  helps  to  achieve national  development  by  creating/increasing an  individual’s  productivity  and  by  increasing awareness  of  social  requirements.  Whilst human  beings  may  be  described  as ‘products’,  any  description  cannot  possibly encapsulate  the  manifold  characteristics  of students  or  teachers,  or  their  standards  and relative attributes. The  complex  nature  of  educational institutes and  their diverse operation warrants the  use  of  quality  assurance mechanisms  as an  essential  component. A  significant  aspect of quality assurance  in within an  institute  that operates  in  its  own  socio-economic  and cultural context  implies  that quality assurance mechanisms  borrowed  from  other  contexts may  be  neither  effective  nor  appropriate.

For this reason, the definition and interpretation of ‘quality’  and  ‘quality  assurance’  of  education programmes  varies  in  any  given  educational situation  depending  on  the  individual,  the institution and the social and national context. Quality  assurance  of  higher  education overall  is of major concern  in  the  third world. Many  researchers  argue  that  the  institutions are not playing an effective role in the delivery of  quality  education.  Earlier  research  shows that whilst the political atmosphere and culture that  exist  are  barriers  to  the  provision  of quality  education,  financial  constraints  also play a part.  In this paper, a perception of poor Quality  Assurance  amongst  affiliates  of  the National University  of  Bangladesh  (NUB)  will be explored.


A  primarily  qualitative  approach  to  the collection  of  data was  carried  out  throughout the  project.    This  was  considered  to  be  the most  appropriate  approach,  given  the  nature of  the  quarry  and  the  circumstances  of  the research, which  was  limited  both  in  terms  of small  size  of  the  sample  of  faculty members and students, and of  the  time available “[11]”. Triangulation  was  required  to  promote  the objectivity of  the  research  “[12]”.  I  tried  to be aware of  the possible positional power  issues that might  arise  within  the  research  process, where  perceived  power  differences  might affect  data  collection  or  the  way  it  was analysed.

3.1  Research Techniques and Data

The affiliates of the NUB were selected for the research  as  they  provide  access  for  a  large proportion  of  Bangladesh’s  student population,  including  the underprivileged. The public  and  private  universities  have  been shown  to  attract  more  competent  students from  the  privileged  sector  (10  percent),  and quality is not such a major issue. The  data  used  in  this  paper was  collected through  an  empirical  survey  conducted  by questionnaire.  These  questionnaires  were pre-tested  through  a  pilot  study.  Qualitative methods were used  that allowed  interviewees to express  their views  in a  free and personal way,  giving  as much  prominence  as  possible to their thematic associations.

3.2  Semi-Structured  Interviews  by Qualitative Approach

Were Held With: •  Key  personnel  at  the  Ministry  of Education in Bangladesh •  Key personnel at  the University Grants Commission of Bangladesh •  Key personnel at the NUB •  Key  personnel  at  public  and  private higher  education  universities  and institutes •  Lecturers  at  public  and  private  higher education universities and institutes •  Social  elites  with  reputations  as educators •  The  guardians  of  students  in  both public  and  private  higher  education institutes •  Students Other  data  was  collected  by  an  empirical data  survey6 approach.  This  approach was considered  the  most  appropriate  for  people who were easily accessible.

3.3  Questionnaires

Were Used For: •  Lecturers  selected  at  random  from public  and  private  higher  education universities and institutes •  Staff  at  private  universities  and  higher education institutes, selected at random •  Students  at  private  universities  and higher  education  institutes,  selected  at random •  Students  facing  an  admission  test  to public  and  private  universities  and higher  education  institutes,  selected  at random. The  opportunity  to  ask  relevant  questions of  the  policymakers,  legislators  and stakeholders  was  available  in  an  interview session.  Non-participatory  observation  was also deemed important. For  this  research,  a  number  of  official and/or  unpublished  documents  and newspaper articles were studied:7

3.4  Document Reviews

•  A  draft  of  the Asaduzzam Commission Report8 •  National University Acts 1990 •  The  NUB’s  rules  and  regulations governing affiliated institutes •  Bangladesh  Bureau  of  Educational Information  and  Statistics  –  BANBEIS Annual  Reports,  1997–2003 (sponsored by UNESCO and organised by  the  Ministry  of  Education, Bangladesh) “[13]”, “[14]”, “[15]”, “[16]”, “[17]”, “[18]”, “[19]”. •  University  Grants  Commission  Annual Report,  1997–2003.  (The  Annual Report  contains  particulars  of  every university  in  Bangladesh,  whether public  or  private,  and  general information  such  as  new  development, strategy  proposals,  etc.)  “[20]”,  “[21]”, “[22]”,“[23]”, “[24]”, “[25]”, “[26]”. •  Students’ Results  sheets  of  public  and private  universities  and  higher education institutes •  Newspaper articles

3.5  Observation

Facilities  for  lectures  were  observed.    The paper  will  concentrate  on  the  use  of  data collected  from  document  review  and observation.  In  addition,  eight  years  spent working  alongside  an  affiliate  of  the  NUB allows  for  some  of  the  arguments  to  reflect personal observation during that time. Before  analysing  the  findings,  it  should  be noted  that  this  is  the  first  study  to  be conducted since  the establishment of NUB  in 1992.


4.1  Academic  Programme  and Appointment of Faculty

Although  the  NUB  affiliates  deliver  higher education for two-year degrees; three- or four- year  Honours;  one  year  Masters  preliminary and  one-year  Masters  final  programmes, there  are  substantial  differences  between courses  taught  in  the  teaching  universities and the affiliates. The syllabus followed by the affiliates  is prepared by  the NUB and as such is same for all, whilst the teaching universities each have  their own syllabuses and are  very different  from  each  other.  Lately,  all  teaching universities  have  started  four-year  Honours courses  and  one-year  Masters  courses.  In addition,  they  also  enrol  students  to  M.phil and PhD programmes.  These are not offered by NUB affiliates. Teaching  staff  in  affiliated  government colleges  and  institutes  are  appointed  by  the Government  (Public  Service  Commission), while  teaching  staff  in  the  non-government (semi-government,  self-financing)  NUB affiliates  are  selected  by  the  governing  body of  the  respective  colleges  and  institutes.  Although  the  NUB  is  government  financed, only affiliates operated by public provision are the domain of the public sector. The remaining institutes  are  financed  and  administrated  by the private sector9.


National University245590615292645095607852817000915200893200
Other Public Universities67282 (21.5)67145 (9.84)70335 (9.83)77865 (11.36)80500 (8.97)83500 (8.36)82700 (8.36)
Total312872 (100)682437 (100)715450 (100)685717 (100)897500 (100)998700 (100)975900 (100)

Source: UGC Annual Report, 1997-2003

TABLE 2: GENERAL INFORMATION – NUB AFFILIATES Items  1997  1998  1999  2000  2001  2002  2003 No. of Affiliates  844  912  1156  1921  1297  1304  1320 No. of Students  245590  615292  645095  607552  81700  915200  893200 No of Teachers  *  22995  30864  30864  32278  32315  32480 No. of Students  241963  253990  233404  289142  302278  410251  395291 Enrolling No. of Students  109124  103128  104153  122466  132550  185321  192810 Passing out (Percentage in  (45.09)  (40.60)  (44.62)  (42.35)  (43.46)  (45.17)  (48.78) Parenthesis) Source: BANBIES Annual Reports 1997 to 2003 * Information not available Of  the  1,326  NUB-affiliated  colleges  and institutes,  145  are  fully  financed  by  the government  and  380  are  self-financing institutes.  The  rest  are  semi-government based.

4.2  Enrolment  and  the  Teacher

Student Ratio In  Bangladesh,  the  most  striking  differences between  the  teaching  universities  and  the NUB  affiliates  lies  in  the  enrolment  of students; the strength of the teaching staff; the number  of  students  ‘passing  out’;  and  the teacher:  student  ratio  in  two  categories  of higher education institutes. It  is  interesting  to  note  that  the  affiliates deliver  the  bulk  of  higher  education  in  the country.  Every  year,  around  90  percent  of students admitted  for higher education  (Table 1)  enrol  in  one  of  more  than  1300  NUB affiliates,  and  more  than  100,000  students10 pass out (Table 2). It  is  also  worth  noting  that  the  number  of faculty  members  in  the  NUB  affiliates  is insufficient (see Table 3), and that non-optimal teacher-student  ratio  exists.  Whilst  the teacher:  student  ratio  at  a  public  teaching university  appeared  to  be  1:14  on  average, the  corresponding  ratio  within  the  affiliates stood at 1:28 in 2003 (Table 3). In addition it is a  poor  reflection  that,  whilst  the  teacher-student  ratio  in  the  public  universities  is unsatisfactory, it is far worse in the colleges. TABLE 3: TEACHER STUDENT RATIOS IN THE PUBLIC UNIVERSITIES AND NUB AFFILIATES Public University  Affiliates to NUB Year  No. of  No. of  Ratio  No. of  No. of   Ratio teachers  students    teachers  students 1997  4015  67282  1:17  *  245590  * 1998  4264  67145  1:16  22995  615292  1:27 1999  4393  70355  1:16  30864  645095  1:21 2000  4608  77865  1:17  30864  607852  1:20 2001  4810  80500  1:17  32278  817000  1:25 2002  5467  83500  1:15  32315  915200  1:28 2003  6101  82700  1:14  32480  8932000  1:28 Source: UGC Annual Report, 1997-2003 * Information not available TABLE 4: NUMBER OF TEACHERS WITH HIGHER DEGREE AT PUBLIC UNIVERSITY Year  Ph.D  Other higher   Sub-total  Total No. of degree    teachers 1997  1647  1146  2793  4015 (41.02)  (28.54)  (69.56)  (100) 1998  1709  1227  2936  4264 (40.08)  (28.78)  (68.86)  (100) 1999  1782  1308  3090  4393 (40.56)  (29.77)  (70.33)  (100) 2000  1666  818  2484  4707 (35.39)  (17.38)  (52.77)  (100) 2001  2982  1079  3061  5241 (37.82)  (20.59)  (58.41)  (100) 2002  2103  1292  3395  5467 (38.47)  (23.63)  (65.10)  (100) 2003  2212  1610  3822  6101 (36.26)  (26.39)  (62.65)  (100) Source: UGC annual report, 1997-2003

4.3  Teaching Staff

Degrees There  is  a  wide  difference  between  the teaching  universities  and  the  NUB  affiliates with  regard  to  the  higher  degrees  held  by teaching  staff.  Many  of  the  teaching  staff  in the NUB-affiliated colleges and institutes have no  higher  qualification  than  the  Masters required as a minimum  in order  to become a teacher. Scope  for  pursuing  higher  degrees  in research  is  almost  zero  in  Bangladesh; however academics need to conduct research degrees  in  order  to  quantify  their  knowledge and  to  be  confident  in  their  profession. As  a result, academics often need  to  travel abroad in order to pursue their higher education. One interview  respondent  commented:  “Only  a handful of teaching staff hold a PhD, M.phil or Masters  degree  from  overseas.”    Compared with  other  public  universities,  where  more than 55 percent of teachers are found to have PhD,  M.  Phil  or  other  foreign  degrees,  the NUB  affiliates  are  staffed  by  less  qualified teachers (Tables 4 and 5).  Many departments lack  a  well-qualified  faculty  member.  In  this respect,  the  position  of  non-government private  colleges  is  far  from  satisfactory. Faculty  members  are  entrusted  with  the teaching  of  degree  and  Masters  courses  to the NUB affiliates. TABLE 5: NUMBER OF TEACHERS WITH HIGHER DEGREE AT NUB AFFILIATES Year  Ph.D  M.Phil   Total degree 1982  5  –  5 1983  3  –  3 1984  4  –  4 1985  3  –  3 1986  –  –  – 1987  5  –  5 1988  6  –  – 1989  1  –  1 1990  3  –  3 1991  3  –  3 1992  5  –  5 1993  4  –  4 1994  10  –  10 1995  3  –  3 1996  7  –  7 1997  2  –  2 1998  5  –  5 1999  5  –  5 2000  8  –  8 2001  5  –  5 2002  3  –  3 Total  90  –  90 Source: UGC annual report, 1997-2003

4.4  Assessment and Course Curricula

There  are  some  major  and  conspicuous divergences between  the assessment system in  place  in  public  teaching  universities  and that  in  the  NUB  affiliates.  In  both  public  and private  universities,  a  semester  system operates  and  students  are  evaluated  several times  a  year.    In  the  affiliated  colleges  and institutes  of  the NUB,  the  degree  is  awarded on the outcome of a terminal examination held at  the  end  of  the  third  year  for  Honours degrees, and any attempt at quality control  is unattainable. With  respect  to  this,  one  academic commented: “In  the NUB affiliates,  the evaluation of  students  on  the  basis  of  tutorial and  assignment  work  is  a  sheer compliance of  formalities  rather  than a  meticulous  assessment  of  their understanding  and  depth  of knowledge.  Even  tutorial examinations  are  not  regularly  held in all affiliates of  the NUB. Although, like  other  public  universities,  two examiners  (one  internal  and  one external)  evaluate  the  scripts  of  the Honours  and Masters  examinations, a one-examiner system operates  for degrees awarded by the NUB.” It  is worth  noting  that  the  course  curricula followed by NUB affiliates is designed with no consideration given to either the availability or the  competence  of  staff  necessary  to  teach any particular subject. The curriculum is rarely updated whereas, according to interview data, it  is  claimed  that  updates  happen  with comparative  frequency  at  the  public  and private universities.

4.5  Quality of Inputs

The  quality  of  students  in  the  teaching universities  and  the  NUB  affiliates  differs greatly.  The  Grade  One  student  seeking admission  to  higher  education  prefers,  in general, the public universities, and especially those  with  a  good  reputation:  Dhaka University, Rajshahi University, BUET, medical colleges,  Agricultural  University,  or  Jahangir Nagar. Of  the  remaining  students,  those who can  afford  to  pay  high  tuition  fees may  seek admission  to  the  private  universities.  As  a result,  the  quality  of  input  to  Honours  and Masters  courses  in  the NUB  affiliates  cannot realistically  be  compared  to  that  of  the universities. The public universities have good reputations,  and  degrees  awarded  by  the conventional  public  universities  are  more readily  recognised,  therefore  students  prefer to study with the conventional universities. TABLE 6: COLLEGE TEACHERS TRAINED UNDER SHORT-TERM ORIENTATION PROGRAMME BY THE NATIONAL UNIVERSITY OF BANGLADESH Year  No. of colleges  No. of teachers 1997  191  191 1998  550  613 1999  463  466 2000  396  419 2001  435  398 2002  543  560 2003  402  450 Source: UGC annual report, 1997-2003

4.6  Learning Support Material

Although  the NUB affiliates are entrusted with the  responsibility  of  imparting  good  quality higher  education,  there  is  a  dearth  of  books and  equipment.  The  country’s  teaching universities  do  not  possess  particularly  well-stocked  libraries,  but  their  position  in  this respect  is  very  much more  satisfactory  than that of the NUB affiliates.

4.7  Major  Concerns  in  the  Affiliates  of NUB

The  fact  that  the NUB affiliates bear  the bulk of  the  responsibility  for  higher  education  in Bangladesh  has  produced  a  situation  with many  and multi-faceted  problems. The major concerns are highlighted below.

4.8  Teaching and Support Staff

According to one academic: “A  major  problem  created  in  the affiliates  is  with  regard  to  teaching staff  and  support  staff  development. There  is an acute dearth of qualified teachers,  as  reflected  by  the  non-optimal  teacher–student  ratio  in  the affiliates.  Moreover,  there  is  an absence  of  staff  development programmes  for  keeping  staff  up-to-date.  Due  to  inadequate  teaching staff  in  the  various  departments  of the affiliated institutions, teachers are over-burdened.” Quality  teaching  from  an  experienced member  of  the  relevant  faculty  is  rarely available.  It  is  occasionally  reported  that  a significant proportion of Honours and Masters Syllabuses  cannot  be  completed  due  to teacher shortage.  

Students are  forced  to  rely on  below-standard  notebooks  and  are  prone to start copying when  in  the examination hall.  Copying  on  a  large  scale  in  the  examination halls  of  the  NUB-affiliated  colleges  and institutes  is an  indicator of  lack of knowledge amongst  students,  and  of  the  low  standard and poor quality of the higher education: “Apart  form  the  lack  of  sufficient teaching  staff,  the  affiliates  are devoid  of  well-qualified  teachers. Honours  and  Masters  courses  are run  by  faculty  members  barely conversant  with  the  latest developments  in  their  respective subject,  or  with  modern  techniques used all over  the world as well as  in the universities of Bangladesh.”

Teachers  at  the  affiliates  are  invariably unable to travel abroad for further studies due to  lack  of  opportunity.  The  short-term Orientation  Programme,  organised  by  the NUB  since  1997,  provides  scope  for  only  a small  number  of  teachers  (Table  6)  teaching the Honours and Masters Courses in affiliated colleges. The  absence  of  adequate  resources  for staff development has resulted in a low overall standard  of  teaching  quality  and  constrained the  ability  of  faculty  members  in  the  NUB affiliates. It  is  also  significant  to  note  that  I  was frequently  unable  to  meet  teachers  in  the colleges.  I visited ten affiliated colleges during the  course of my  fieldwork. Of  the 10,  seven were  located  in  rural  areas,  the  others  in cosmopolitan cities.

Of  the  three  in cities,  two were fully financed by the government and the other  operated  through  semi-government provision. Each of the seven affiliated colleges in  rural  areas  operated  through  semi-government provision. Speaking  to  a  teacher11 in  one  of  the  rural colleges, I enquired after the reason as to why they fail to attend regularly. Her observation is important to note: “The teaching staff who are teaching with  the  rural  colleges  do  not  have enough  scope  to  offer  private coaching in order to do increase their income levels. Only those who teach subjects  in  the  science  discipline may  offer  small  scale  private coaching.   Moreover,  to  be  teacher, we have to contribute a large amount of money for the establishment of the college,  as  government  funds  are only  for  the  making  of  a  good establishment. 

So  the  rural  colleges are  established  by money,  land  and assets  contributed  by  the  teachers and support staff, along with the help local  philanthropists.  Teachers  of urban  colleges  have  more opportunity  to offer private coaching. In  these circumstances, rural college teachers  are  forced  to  concentrate on  their own or  families’ business  in order to survive.

4.9  Upgrading of Course Curricula

A policy maker commented: “Syllabuses  followed  in  the  affiliates are  designed  by  the  National University  in  consideration  of  areas of  study  covered  by  the  public universities of  the country. They pay no  attention  to  the  availability  and competence of  teachers  required  for these  Honours  and  Masters Courses.  This  situation  creates enormous problems, with substantial portions  of  important  topics sometimes remaining untouched.” As  mentioned  previously,  this  research study has provided information that syllabuses designed  by  the  National  University  are  not updated regularly. This denies the student any knowledge  of  contemporary  change  and  the opportunity to focus on different subject areas. In  its  turn,  it  renders  the  student  non-competitive in the employment market, both at home and abroad.

A  principal  of  a  private  affiliated  college located  in  the  Dhaka  city  made  following observation: “Public  universities  are  not  our competitors. We  are  competing with the  private  universities,  as  we provide  Bachelor  and  Masters  level education  through  self-financing provision.  Although  most  of  the private  universities  don’t  provide  a good  education,  they  do  provide  a good certificate and transcript to their students,  where  they  show  that  the students have studied a modern and timely  course  and  curriculum. Students  in  the  private  higher education  sector  are  not  essentially greedy  for  a  better  education,  but they  and  their  guardians  deserve  a certificate with  a  good  grade,  and  a transcript  indicating  the  modern course  studied. 

NUB  provides  us with course curricula that is outdated. As  we  don’t  prepare  the  course curriculum,  it  follows  that  we  don’t assess  the  examination  papers  of the  students;  thus we  are  unable  to meet  the  demands  of  the  students and  guardians.    This  results  in  us losing our market.”

4.10  Utility Facilities

Another problem faced by the affiliates of NUB is  the  absence  of  well-stocked  libraries  and well-equipped  laboratories.  There  are  no libraries  in the NUB affiliates enriched with an abundance  of  appropriate  reading material  – the textbooks, current journals and periodicals that  are  widely  available  to  the  students  of teaching universities elsewhere. Regional  comparison  would  be  the  most appropriate method of analysis. However, due to lack of sufficient and reliable data based on any  previous  research  in Bangladesh,  I  have used my observations to illustrate the issue. Three  affiliated  colleges  located  in cosmopolitan  cities  have  at  least  a  library room  and  some  stock. 

In  the  rural  regions, seven colleges, have no space allocated for a library,  consequently  no  books  are  kept. However, all colleges in the rural areas have a librarian  who  receives  a  salary  from government  funds.    I was unable  to meet any of the ‘librarians’ on the college campuses, but I did manage to speak to one when I met him in a local ‘tea store’12. His comment is significant: “When  I was  offered  this  job,  I  had to  contribute  a  significant  amount  of money  for  the  establishment  of  the college.  I  knew  that  in  a  college, there  is  a  compulsory  position  for  a librarian. To be a  librarian,  I needed some  form of  training, which  I have. However,  I  also  came  to  know  from my  friends  when  I  undertook  the training  programme  that,  although the  librarian  enjoys  a  good  salary package, he or she does not need to regularly  visit  the  college. 

So  I thought  that  this  would  be  a  good profession  for me as  I would able  to invest  more  time  in  my  business, therefore  I  provided  a  large  amount of money. This  job provides me with a  good  prestigious  social  life;  moreover,  I  receive  a  solid  income from my job every month.” Even some government colleges with good reputations  affiliated  with  the  NUB  have  no standard  books  in  their  libraries.  Books  of  a low  notebook  type  standard  are  sometimes placed  in  libraries  for  use  by  teachers  and students, but  these are of very  limited use  in the  context  of  modern  techniques  and teaching within rapidly changing departments. The quantity of  text and reference books may also be so  limited  that demand can barely be met. 

In  addition,  the  latest  journals  and periodicals,  critical  reading  for  Honours  and Masters courses, are unavailable in almost all libraries of the NUB affiliates. An academic observes: “Due  to  the  lack of sufficient  reading material,  quality  teaching  in  NUB affiliates  is  seriously  hampered:  the students are deprived of good source material  for  their courses on  the one hand,  and  lack  internationally-based material,  with  respect  to  their  future position in the global work market, on the other.” In  this age of electronic communication, an Internet  connection  may  be  found  to  be  a reasonable  substitute  if  books,  journal,  and periodicals  cannot  be  made  available,  but such facilities have yet to be developed in the NUB affiliates. In  addition,  the  laboratories  essential  for science students are poorly equipped,  lacking sufficient quantities of modern apparatus.

Old and obsolete apparatus is retained to fulfil the purpose.  The  operating  laboratories  in  the affiliates also fail to provide adequate facilities for scientific testing and experiment. It is worth noting that, with  the exception of a  few  public  universities,  libraries  and laboratories  of  teaching  universities  also  fall short  of  expectations.  Nevertheless,  the teaching universities are better equipped than the affiliates in this respect.

4.11  Appraisal and Observation

The NUB affiliates  lack proper evaluation and monitoring systems  for assuring  the quality of higher  education.  As  referred  to  earlier, tutorials  are  unlikely  to  be  held  regularly  due to  the shortage of  teaching staff  in virtually all affiliates  offering  Honours  and  Masters courses. The terminal examinations, held after three  years  for  Honours  and  one  year  for Masters  programmes,  fail  to  cater  for  the continuous  evaluation  of  students  by  their very  nature.  A  system  that  relies  entirely  on terminal  examination  for  results  represents one-shot  evaluation,  whereby  the  strengths and weakness of students can barely begin to be assessed. A good student may not perform well  in  a  particular  examination,  while  a student of inferior calibre overall may turn in a surprisingly good performance.

The pattern of examination  questions  set  is  so  stereotyped and subjective  that  it has become  impossible to  assess  any  originality  or  depth  of knowledge on the students’ part. Apart  from  the  absence  of  competent evaluation and assessment, monitoring of  the current operating system is non-existent in the affiliates.  The  number  of  affiliates,  and  the number of students studying within them, is so large  that  the  NUB  finds  monitoring  their performance unwieldy and unmanageable. In this context, an academic noted: “Due  to  the  absence  of  monitoring, the  performance  trend,  widely believed  to  be  deteriorating  in  the colleges  over  the  years,  cannot  be correctly  assessed and  reviewed  for ensuring future quality assurance.”

An  academic  working  in  an  affiliated institute  of  high  repute  in  Dhaka13 city made the following comment: “Students studying with  the affiliated institutions  of NUB  have  no  need  to write assignments. They  just appear for  examination.  They  are  also provided with a selected short  list of questions  that  will  appear  in  the examination.  Answers  to  the questions will have been prepared by the  tutors.   Students  simply  need  to memorise  the answers  to  the  tutor’s questions:  students  require  greater skill  in  submitting  data  to  memory than  analytical  and  inventory capacity.  The  student  who  can present  their  tutors’  ideas,  having memorised  them,  is  the  best student.”

If  this  is  the  case  in  Dhaka,  it  is  easy  to envisage  the  scenario  in  the  rural  affiliated colleges. A student studying with  the affiliated NUB  institutions  cannot  be  nurtured  as  an innovator, and such circumstances  lead  to an academic  atmosphere  without  research.  Should a student wish to write a paper on the topic  related  to  his  or  her  chosen  subject,  it helps if ideas can be explored.  If students are assigned  a  specific  topic,  they  need  to  carry out  research  in  order  to  include  information and  data.    Tutors  can  be  brought  up-to-date with  subject  content,  and  with  local  and international  debate  surrounding  the  subject, in  order  to  direct  their  students.    There  is scope  to  provide  tutors  with  sufficient information  to  moderate  the  course  and course  curricula  to meet  future  demand,  and also  motivate  policy-makers  to  address problems  which  may  be  experienced  within different sectors.


5.1  Strategy for Quality Assurance

It  is  unnecessary  to  state  that  the  problems pervading  the  affiliated  NUB  institutions highlighted  earlier  are  faced  by many  of  the country’s  teaching  universities,  but  by  and large  the constraints are particularly prevalent in  NUB  affiliates  because  of  their  prevailing characteristic  features.  Strategies recommended below may be applicable to the teaching  public  and  private  universities,  but are particularly relevant to the NUB affiliates.

5.2  Staff Development

A  major  problem  prevailing  in  the  NUB affiliates  is  that  of  the  absence  of  sufficiently qualified  academics  that  are  competent enough  for  both  Honours  and  Masters teaching.  As  indicated  earlier,  the  problem does not appear  to be associated  solely with the  number  of  teachers  available,  but  also with the number of higher degrees held. One  policy-maker  made  following observation: “It  is  obligatory  on  the  one  hand  to increase  the  number  of  teaching staff,  the  shortage  of  which  has plagued  the  affiliates  and,  on  the other,  to  develop  the  existing  staff. The  regular  recruitment  of  teaching staff  on  the  basis  of monitoring  the staff  position  by  the  National University  needs  to  be  ensured. Teachers  holding  higher  degrees and  with  greater  analytical  ability should  be  posted  to  the  Ministry  of Education  or  Education  Directorate for the purpose of policy-making and skill  development.  If  current  trends continue, the affiliates will continually be  deprived  of  capable  teachers, even if large-scale staff development does take place.” A  programme  of  staff  development  needs to be  initiated and structured  training of staff, both  at  home  and  abroad,  should  be commenced.  The  short-term  orientation programmes  organised  by  the  NUB,  being inadequate  in  number,  should  be  operated more  frequently  in  order  to  accommodate  a larger number of teachers from the affiliates.

5.3  Study Support Services

The  issue  of  reading material  and  apparatus is  concomitant with  that of  teaching  staff and staff  development  in  the  affiliates.  Only  the number of qualified staff may not, on  its own, be  enough  for  quality  assurance  in  higher education.  Libraries  furnished  with  adequate textbooks,  journals  and  periodicals  are  of paramount  importance  for  ensuring  quality, especially  in  the  NUB  affiliates.  Enriched libraries supplement the endeavour for quality assurance and perhaps go some way towards compensating  for  academic  loss  suffered  by the shortage of teaching staff. Old  and  archaic  apparatus  used  by laboratories  within  the  affiliates  also  merits attention.  Without  the  laboratories  being improved  and  upgraded,  a  quality  science education  in  science  would  appear  an ambitious proposition.

The National University of  Bangladesh,  on  the  basis  of  their assessment,  may  recommend  measures  to replace,  replenish  and  re-equip  all laboratories within its affiliated institutions. Virtually all international study and research material  is  now  published  electronically.  A technologically  up-to-date  library  that  allows access  to  electronic  media  needs  to  be established  centrally  under  the  remit  of  the NUB.  Primarily  backed  by  government funding,  it  should  be  necessary  for  each affiliated  institute or college to make a regular contribution  towards  the  establishment  and upkeep  of  the  said  central  electronic  library. Students  and  teaching  staff  alike  should  be allowed  access  to  the  library  via  the  use  of secure user names and passwords.

An academic said in interview: “Careful  attention  should  be  paid  to the  selection  of  an  appropriate  site for  a  campus,  having  sufficient  land and buildings for the accommodation of  classrooms,  academic  and  co-curricular activities, libraries, seminar halls,  auditoriums  and  laboratories, staff  and  students’  common  rooms, dining hall, etc. In order to implement this  strategy,  the  government  of Bangladesh or donor agencies need to  offer  assistance  in  the  form  of finance.” It  is  obvious  that  the  procurement  of sufficient  reading  material  and  scientific apparatus cannot be  resolved by  the affiliates alone,  or  by  the NUB. Much  depends  on  the government’s  approval  and  a  financial allocation  from  the  public  exchequer. Nevertheless,  the  NUB  does  have  a  role  to play. Much  will  hinge  upon  how  convincingly the affiliates present their budgetary demands before  the  Ministry  of  Education  and  the Ministry  of  Finance.   

As  the  NUB  affiliates operate all over the country, the NUB needs to establish  at  least  one Central  Library  as well as  a  number  of  smaller  libraries  in  separate divisions. 5.4  Creation of Internet Facilities Internet  facilities  are  used  all  over  the world. Such  facilities can greatly  reduce  the number of books and hard copies of  journals  required to  be  kept  in  a  library.  However,  Internet facilities  are  not  currently  available  in  the colleges  (and  are  also  unavailable  in  some teaching universities). It  will  most  likely  be  time  consuming  to collect  together  the  reading material  required for  the  affiliated  colleges,  and  electronic devices should be considered as a substitute that  will  allow  access  of  up-to-date  reading material  for  higher  education  students. 

A central  database  maintained  by  the  NUB would  allow  students  access  to  current  and relevant  material  when  studying  with  an affiliate.

5.5  Up-to-Date Syllabuses

Quality  assurance  in  higher  education  is linked  to  the  regular  updating  of  syllabuses taught within  the affiliated  colleges. However, once  designed  and  implemented,  the  NUB affiliate syllabuses are currently used  for  long periods,  with  no  material  changes  made  in consideration  of  realities  prevailing  in  the economy. Updating of syllabuses  is critical  for quality assurance and needs to be carried out in view of market demand and changing social requirements.   The  situation where a  handful of  teachers  have  the  higher  degrees  and expertise  whilst  their  students  have  lower academic  standards  needs  to  be  recognised in the design of syllabus and course curricula. In default, the syllabuses will be of little use in the  pursuit  of  quality  assurance  in  the affiliates.

5.6  Initiatives Required  for Evaluation and Monitoring System

The  system  currently  used  by  the  affiliates does not conform  to standard practice around the rest of the world. in which there should be regular,  frequent  and  continuous  evaluation.  This  is  not  performed  in  accordance with  set norms  in  the  affiliated  colleges. Currently  the NUB  attempts  to  maintain  quality  control  by providing  the  course  curriculum  and controlling  the examination system, However, the  tools  used  are  out-dated  and  not implemented  properly.  Substantial  change  is needed  to  meet  the  demands  of  quality control in the 21st century. As  noted  in  earlier  findings,  a  semester system  is  a  far  more  important  tool  than terminal examination in ensuring the quality of higher education delivered. 

Evaluation needs to  be  frequent,  with  students  having  their performance  reviewed  throughout  each  and every year,  rather  than assessed  just once at the  end  of  the  terminal  year.    The  revised system  of  test  and  examination  should  be designed  to  evaluate  students’  originality, intelligence  and  depth  of  knowledge accurately.  The  standard  evaluation  system, as  practised  widely  in  reputable  universities, may  be  followed  for  quality  assurance purposes in the NUB affiliates. The  monitoring  system  needs  to  be introduced as part of a long-term plan.

5.7  Research Facilities

Higher  education  institutes  may  gain international  renown  through  their  reputation for research and their research capabilities. In addition, a wide range of research may enrich the course content, which  in  turn may ensure an  improved  quality  of  higher  education.  But the NUB affiliates NUB barely have the scope or  the  facilities  for  such  pursuits.  In  order  to ensure  a  higher  quality  of  education  in  the affiliates,  research  into  a  diverse  range  of topics needs to be embarked upon.

5.8  Prudence in Expanding New Affiliates

The  rapid  expansion  of  degree  colleges  and institutes  that  lack  adequate  facilities  –  the teaching  staff,  libraries,  and  laboratories  – along with the liberal approval of Honours and Masters  awards,  has  led  to  a  marked deterioration  in  the  quality  of  education. Although at  the  time of  inspection  the college authority  presents  the  requisite  number  of teachers  and  a  moderately  furnished  library, the  facilities  reduce with  the passage of  time rather  than  improving.  Without  proper monitoring,  the  situation  simply  continues  to deteriorate.


Around  90  percent  of  students  enrolled  in higher  education  institutes  study  in  the  NUB affiliates.  However, the standard of education they  receive  in  such  institutes  is  very disappointing.  Findings  show  that  this situation has developed due  to a  shortage of qualified  staff  with  substantive  academic backgrounds,  an  absence  of  well-stocked libraries  and  laboratories,  inappropriate evaluation  and  management  systems  and  a lack  of  attention  to  keeping  the  curriculum updated  in  order  to  keep  abreast  of  change and market demand. It thus transpires that the overwhelming  majority  of  graduates  passing out  each  year  from NUB affiliates  have  been deprived of a good quality education and are entering  the  employment  market  as  a  ‘non-competent’ group. In order  to utilise  such a  large  segment of educated  manpower  fruitfully  and  effectively, the major thrust of quality assurance needs to be  directed  towards  the  affiliates  of  NUB, notwithstanding  the  quality  assurance  of  the public  and  private  teaching  universities  of Bangladesh.


HE:  Higher Education
NUB:  National University of Bangladesh
QAA:  Quality Assurance Agency
TQM:  Total Quality Management


[1]  G. M. Alam,  “Private HE  in Bangladesh:  the  impact on  HE  governance  &  legislation,”  Ph.D  Thesis, School  of Education, University  of Nottingham, UK, 2007. [2]  G. M. Alam, “The impact of students’ involvement in party  politics  on  higher  education  and  national development in Bangladesh,” TIU, MO: USA, 2003.
[3]  P.  Boyle,  and  J.  A.  Bowden,  “Educational  quality assurance  in  universities:  an  enhanced  model,”  J. Assessment  and  Evaluation  in  Higher  Education, vol. 22, no. 2, pp. 111-121, 1997.
[4]  R.  Pirsig,  “Zen  and  the  art  of  motorcycle maintenance:  an  inquiry  into  values  –  Perennial Classics  Edition  2000,”  New  York:  Harper  Collins, 2000.
[5]  C. Ball,  “What  the hell  is quality?”  In D. Urwin, eds. Fitness  for  Purpose:  Essays  in  Higher  Education, Guildford: SRJE and NFER-Nelson, 1985.
[6]  L.  Harvey,  and  D.  Green,  Defining  Quality Assessment  and  Evaluation.  J.  Higher  Education, vol. 18, no. 1, pp. 9-34, 1993.
[7]  K.  Ravisankar,  and  C.R.K.  Murthy,  “Student Participation  Circle:  An  Approach  to  Learner Participation  in  Quality  Management,”  J.  Indian journal  of Open  Learning,  vol.  9,  no.  1,  pp.  73-85, 2000.
[8]  M. P. Leen, “Quality Assurance in Higher Education: A  tour  of  Practice  and  resources”,  J.  Higher Education in Europe, vol. 18, pp. 71-80, 1993.
[9]  P.  R.  Ramanujam,  “Distance  Learning Materials  of the Developing Countries: How about their Quality?” J. Indian Journal of Open Learning, vol. 2, no. 2, pp. 8-12, 1993.
[10] R. Dhurbarrylall, “Quality assurance: a few initiatives Taken  in  Distance  Education  at  the  Mauritius College  of  the  Air”,  J. Open  Praxis,  Volume  2,  pp. 13-17, 1999.
[11]  J.  Bell,  “Doing  Your  Research  Projects  –  Third Edition,” Philadelphia: Open University Press, 1999.
[12]   L. M. L. Cohen and K. Morrison, “Research Methods in Education,”   Sussex: Rutledge, Flamer, 2002.
[13]  Bangladesh Bureau  of Educational  Information  and Statistics,  “Pocket  Book  on  Educational  Statistics,” Dhaka: BANBEIS Press, 2003.
[14]  Bangladesh Bureau  of Educational  Information  and Statistics,  “Pocket  Book  on  Educational  Statistics,” Dhaka: BANBEIS Press, 2002.
[15]  Bangladesh Bureau  of Educational  Information  and Statistics,  “Pocket  Book  on  Educational  Statistics,” Dhaka: BANBEIS Press, 2001.
[16]  Bangladesh Bureau  of Educational  Information  and Statistics,  “Pocket  Book  on  Educational  Statistics,” Dhaka: BANBEIS Press, 2000.
[17]  Bangladesh Bureau  of Educational  Information  and Statistics,  “Pocket  Book  on  Educational  Statistics,” Dhaka: BANBEIS Press, 1999.
[18]  Bangladesh Bureau  of Educational  Information  and Statistics,  “Pocket  Book  on  Educational  Statistics,” Dhaka: BANBEIS Press, 1998.
[19]  Bangladesh Bureau  of Educational  Information  and Statistics,  “Pocket  Book  on  Educational  Statistics,” Dhaka: BANBEIS Press, 1997.
[20] University  Grants  Commission,  “Annual  Report, University  Grants  Commission  of  Bangladesh,” Dhaka: UGC, 2003.
[21] University  Grants  Commission,  “Annual  Report, University  Grants  Commission  of  Bangladesh,” Dhaka: UGC, 2002.
[22] University  Grants  Commission,  “Annual  Report, University  Grants  Commission  of  Bangladesh,” Dhaka: UGC, 2001.
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[26] University  Grants  Commission,  “Annual  Report, University  Grants  Commission  of  Bangladesh,” Dhaka: UGC, 1997.

1 In  the main,  the NUB  controls, monitors  and  evaluates  its affiliated institutes and colleges. In addition, the NUB designs courses and  curricular  for  the  affiliates,  and  confers degrees on the students of the affiliates.
2 These days, most are products are has got two entities  into themselves. For instance, in the restaurant business, although the main product is the food supplied which is visible but its modern  presentation  technique motives  us  to  classify  it  as service product.
3 The  term  authority  used  can  be  varied.  For  instance, ‘managing  committee’  (such GB, Senate and  syndicate) may be  the  authority  for  a  school  (i.e.  university,  institutes  and colleges). However, if we see the educational context broadly, the Ministry  of Education  is  the main  authority  of  the  state education  system.  However, Ministry  of  Education  mainly depends on  education policy  currently practised  in order  to control  and  monitor  the  state  education  system,  so  the existing  educational  policy  hence  play  the  most  important role as being the main authority.
4 This education is a product shaped from the course curricula
5 Namely, the National University of Bangladesh (NUB)
6 quantitative
7 Since no academic research has been conducted, news paper articles  and   policy/official documents would  be  secondary source of the data collection
8 Prof Asaduzzam  is  the  chairman  of  the University Grants Commission,  under  his  supervision,  a  team was  formed  to explore  the  current  situations  of  higher  education  and  to discover more  effective  ways  so  that  the  quality  of  higher education can be higher
9 ‘Semi-government’ provision  receives partial  funding  from the government
10 In  2003,  192,810  ‘passed  out’  from  NUB  affiliated institutions.
11 She  is  working  in  the  science  discipline.  She  teaches mathematics
12 In  the  rural  area  of  Bangladesh,  tea  is  not  served  in  a cafeteria. It has been selling on the street by making a ‘shade’ known as ‘tea store’.
13 Dhaka  is  the  capital  of  Bangladesh,  where  most  of  the highly reputed higher learning institutes are located.

About the author

Gazi Mahbubul Alam

Gazi Mahbubul Alam

Dr. Gazi mahbubul Alam is a faculty member of the Department of Educational Management, Planning & Policy, Faculty of Education, University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

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